|Date of Judgement
|04 July 2023
|Supreme Court of India
|RESERVE BANK OF INDIA & ORS
|A. K. NAIR & ORS
|S. Ravindra Bhat, Dipankar Datta
|Cases referred/relied upon:
|1. Rajeev Kumar Gupta and Ors. vs. Union of India and Ors. 2. Siddaraju vs. State of Karnataka and Ors3. State of Kerala and Ors. vs. Leesamma Joseph.
The case involved an employee with a disability who was denied the benefit of reservation in promotion by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). The employee filed a writ petition seeking relief, including the provision of relaxation of conditions and/or grace marks to disabled candidates for promotion. The High Court granted the relief sought by the employee, but the RBI appealed to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court upheld the High Court’s decision and directed the RBI to extend the benefit of reservation in promotion to the employee. The court criticized the RBI for not considering the unique circumstances of employees with disabilities and emphasized that employees with disabilities should not be denied promotion solely based on their disability. The court invoked Article 142 of the Constitution to do complete justice in the cause.
Facts of the case
The case involved an employee named A.K. Nair who had “Post-Polio Paralysis of Limbs” with 50% disability.
– Nair was working at the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) as a Coin/Note Examiner, Grade-II/Clerk.
– Nair was denied the benefit of reservation in promotion to the post of Assistant Manager in the RBI, despite being eligible for it under the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunity, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995.
– Nair filed a writ petition seeking relief, including the provision of relaxation of conditions and/or grace marks to disabled candidates for promotion.
– The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) of the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, GoI, and circulars issued by the RBI also issued various office memoranda from time to time regarding the promotion of employees with disabilities.
1. Whether the employee with a disability was entitled to the benefit of reservation in promotion to the post of Assistant Manager in the RBI under the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunity, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995.
2. Whether the RBI was justified in denying the benefit of reservation in promotion to the employee with a disability.
3. Whether the High Court was justified in granting relief to the employee with a disability, including the provision of relaxation of conditions and/or grace marks to disabled candidates for promotion.
4. Whether the decision in National Confederation of Development of Disabled was applicable to the present case.
5. Whether the impugned Office Memoranda issued by the DoPT denying the benefit of reservation in identified posts falling in Groups ‘A’ and ‘B’ to employees of Prasar Bharati, having disabilities, were legal.
1. The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunity, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995, which provides for the promotion of equal opportunities, protection of rights, and full participation of persons with disabilities in various aspects of life, including employment.
2. The Constitution of India, which contains provisions related to securing social justice, promoting the welfare of the people, and eliminating inequalities in status, facilities, and opportunities.
3. The Directive Principles of State Policy, which are fundamental in the governance of the country and require the State to apply certain principles in making laws, including promoting the welfare of the people and securing the right to work.
4. Various office memoranda issued by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) of the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, GoI, and circulars issued by the RBI regarding the promotion of employees with disabilities.
ANALYSIS AND JUDGEMENT
- Statutory Right of Persons with Disabilities: The Court’s ruling recognized that individuals with disabilities, in this case, a person with post-polio limb paralysis, have a statutory right to claim reservations in promotions as per Section 33 of the Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995. This highlights the importance of upholding the rights of marginalized groups, such as people with disabilities, and ensuring their equal participation in public service.
- The Scope of Reservation in Promotions: The judgment addresses the scope of reservations in promotions and the caution expressed by Justice S Ravindra Bhat. While affirming the rights of persons with disabilities, Justice Bhat emphasizes that these reservations should not be unduly extended to other groups entitled to horizontal reservations, like women and transgender persons. This nuanced perspective acknowledges the need to balance multiple affirmative action goals and prevent potential conflicts.
- Constitutional Intent and Administrative Efficiency: The judgment highlights the constitutional intent of Article 16 of the Indian Constitution and the need to balance reservations with administrative efficiency. It suggests that reservations should not compromise the spirit of competition, especially in promotions, as positions gained through promotions often have more significant responsibilities and impact higher up in the hierarchy. The judgment underlines that the only exception to reservations in promotions is for Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe appointees, as provided under Article 16(4A).
- Rigid Approach by the RBI: The Court criticized the RBI for its rigid approach in denying Mr. Nair’s claim for reservation in promotions and for not identifying a suitable Group ‘A’ post for reservation. This critique underscores the responsibility of public institutions, like the RBI, to accommodate and facilitate the aspirations of persons with disabilities, as envisaged by the Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995.
- Retrospective Recognition: The Court’s decision to grant Mr. Nair the right to a retrospective promotion and monetary benefits recognizes the injustice he faced and provides relief. This is an important aspect of the judgment as it ensures that individuals who have been denied their rights in the past can receive redress.
This case sets a precedent by upholding the statutory rights of persons with disabilities to claim reservations in promotions and by emphasizing the need to balance affirmative action with administrative efficiency. It also underscores the responsibility of public institutions to be more accommodating to persons with disabilities and to take informed decisions commensurate with their aspirations. The judgment serves as a reminder of the importance of upholding the rights of marginalized groups in public service employment.
In summary, the Supreme Court’s decision in Mr. AK Nair’s case reaffirms the statutory rights of persons with disabilities to claim promotions through reservations. It also emphasizes the need to balance reservations with administrative efficiency, cautioning against unduly extending them to other groups entitled to horizontal reservations.
The Court’s criticism of the RBI’s rigid approach underscores the responsibilities of public institutions as model employers. The retrospective recognition of Mr. Nair’s promotion and the granting of benefits provide him with the redress he deserved, setting a precedent for addressing historical injustices.
In conclusion, the judgment promotes the rights of persons with disabilities and calls for a careful balance between affirmative action and administrative efficiency in public service employment.
- In the Supreme Court of India Civil Appeal no(s). 529 & 530 of 2023; 4 … (n.d.). https://www.livelaw.in/pdf_upload/521-reserve-bank-of-india-v-ak-nair-4-july-2023-481514.pdf
- Bhat, R. (n.d.). Reserve Bank Of India vs A K Nair on 4 July, 2023. Indian Kanoon. Retrieved November 5, 2023, from https://indiankanoon.org/doc/169712311/
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